I’ve put together a wild little plan to ship my 1975 Pistachio Green Van to Liverpool England where I will embark on what will undoubtedly be the adventure of a lifetime. The goal is to drive from England to Turkey where the real adventure begins. Watch this space and join me on the adventure.
Made it home from Xmas
For anyone curious, it was an epic ride from the south of Turkey back to Istanbul with Pistachio Green. I had no idea the mountains were so beautiful in Turkey! I had some amazing people from Izmir reach out to help me sail the van across the Mediterranean which would have meant a very lonely Xmas by myself in the van. Not appealing for anyone! So I shelved the mission until January 2019.
Turkey was incredible! My favourite part was giving guided tours to the very kind men at the gas stations who adored my ‘caravan’. It’s apparently rare that a Scooby Doo lookalike bus makes an appearance in the region. This crazy idea was born one night drinking scotch in Ottawa with @splitprowho suggested I ship the van to Portugal. A number of ridiculous brainstorming sessions later with various people and I landed with an outrageous plan to head east. Far, far east. It hasn’t been easy, but this is a drive in the park compared to what’s to come. For now, it’s Xmas in the valley with my loved ones, a final adventure for 2018 with my family and then who knows what’s to come. What a beautiful ride it’s been. I wish all of you loads of love with your loved ones today. Cheers to the beauty of living the gift of life. Merry Xmas! Pistachio Green is signing off. 🚌💨
Before heading home I took one final little road trip to the south west of Turkey where the Aegean and Mediterranean Sea converge, an area known as Oludeniz. Renowned for its turquoise and and aquamarine colours, I can only imagine what this place must be like in the summer season. It was a beautiful way to wrap up this leg of the Vanlife the adventure. Enjoy a little taste of paradise from beautiful Turkey.
The race in on!
Hmmm... is this what the future has in store for me and Pistachio Green? The race is on. It’s Xmas eve in Turkey and I’ve been on the road for 12 hours. I still have to store the van, pack, sort out my customs/vehicle crux and get to the airport by morning to make it home for Xmas to see my family. I made a strategic call today to abort the mission and re-assess in January. And if all else fails: I can always retire in Turkey and sell coffee. 🙂 Happy Holidays my friends! Wish me luck!
Detour in Fetiye
Where the Aegean and Mediterranean Sea converge...
Sleeping by the sea in Marmaris
How does this boondock thing work, you ask? I essentially find a point on a map, often with the assistance of an app called Park4Night, that looks quiet and isolated and long after the sun goes down I make my way through winding roads, scout the area, trust my gut, put the van in park, shut her down, lock her up tight, put my security measures in place and lay low for the evening hoping no one knocks on the window or gives me a hard time. I never quite know how it’s going to work out. All you can do is cross your fingers and hope you’ve made a good decision. In today’s case - magic! Morning God rays and a fiery sky, with coffee on the cliffs, contemplating what to do next.
I’ve spent the last week trying to figure out how to sail this van across the Mediterranean Sea. She crossed the Atlantic from Canada back in July, she then traveled approximately 3,625km’s across 10 countries, had two and a half major breakdowns (creating some awesome side adventure opportunities) and it’s hard to believe that the adventure has barely just begun.
Half the people I speak to tell me there’s no Ferry and that it’s ‘broken’. A select few tell me it’s operational. I have a flight home December 25th that I may or may not take. If the weather is good Monday and the other Ferry people tell me it’s a go, I drive 10 hours to the south, board the Ferry and it’s a solo-Xmas on the sea with Pistachio Green for me. If not, I store the van in Turkey until January, hope for the best in the new year and get to see my family and loved ones. Flexibility and patience is crucial. Why all of this you ask? Well, if it all works, it’ll all make sense soon enough. If not... honestly, I have no idea! Seemed like a pretty good idea 6 months ago.
Runway in Bulgaria
That moment you pop your drone up in the sky and realize you’ve just overnighted on an abandoned airport runway in Bulgaria. Oops!
Escape from Romania
Winter storms and this vintage van do not mix at all. It's been challenging to not get stuck in the snow. Highways were closed, traffic for up to 7 hours... we need to get out of here and make our way to Bulgaria.
Pop up Xmas market in Budapest
A quick little pitstop in Budapest and a tour of one the pop up Xmas markets: food, hot wine and a great little experience.
Pit stop in Budapest
It wasn't originally on the list of places to visit, but when in Hungary, why not? Afterall, we're making this all up as we go, right?
Boondocking in Hungary
Woke up in the forest in Hungary. Direction: Budapest!
These famous steps were featured in the smash hit series: Game of Thrones.
King's Landing, Dubrovnik - the main filming location in Croatia for the fictional city in Game of Thrones. It’s winter in Europe, the van broke down the day I returned to Italy for my 40th, an Italian mechanic I’ve never met has been sending me video updates via WhatsApp, time is ticking, Turkey is calling, the passes are getting snowed over and the mis-adventures have already begun. It’s perfect
Last Thursday I decided last minute that the van needed to be rescued. As they say: Winter is coming. So with 48 hours notice, flights were booked, bags were packed, all my work responsibilities were fulfilled and the next thing I knew it was planes, trains and automobiles all over again. I apparently wasn’t quite ready for home in Ottawa, Canada. From Newark to Switzerland to Venice to Trieste, the last minute plan materialized perfectly. That is, until the van didn’t start. Of course it didn’t!
The important part of the story is that it was also my 40th birthday on Monday and the parking lot in Trieste wasn’t exactly ideal, so... found a mechanic, rented a car, got the parking lot owner to manage the van for us and headed to Split, Croatia. It was a jumbled beautiful mess of local food, heritage hotels, friendly taxi drivers, pop up hot wine booths and a strange biker bar until 3am followed by a whole lot of stumbling around trying to find our way home. The weirder the better right?
From there, a little Game of Thrones adventure to Dubrovnik where we explored the back alleys at night, King’s Landing by day and the walls surrounding the old city. What a place!
Now what? No idea. But my Instagram stories may have left a clue...
Somewhere in Croatia on the way to King’s Landing...
One last adventure
This crazy Gypsy and I ended up in Olympia, Sparta and eventually Athens. From there we embraced our 12-hour layover in Istanbul, stayed up all night, danced the night away in strange nightclubs, feasted on Turkish food and eventually slipped through security on zero sleep to catch our flight back to Austria.
From there, Erwin our amazing Austrian mechanic picked us up at 9am, got us coffee, drove us to his shop (I got the full tour of the shop and his farm) where we picked up the van and he saw us off to the highway south to Croatia.
After a two-hour power nap in a parking lot and lunch made up of fries and schnitzel, we decided that Italy might be best and made our way south to Trieste. Two nights of exploration, boondocking in olive fields (watching horror movies until 4am) and research on where to store the van for who knows how long, we’re now on our way to Slovenia for a final 36-road trip with Pistachio Green before flying home to Canada.
What a ride this has been!
We made the most of the mishaps and just rolled with it. Life couldn’t have unfolded more ridiculously and beautifully.
Be Wild and Free
If we’ve only got one shot at this then why not make it the wildest, craziest most meaningful life possible? Recognize that life is a game, you make your own rules and your choices shape the reality you experience. Be bold. Be brave. Be wild. Be free.
Monasteries of Meteora
Stumbled upon one of the most magnificent places I’ve ever traveled to. Meteora, Greece. The first monks of Meteora arrived back in the 14th century establishing a monastic community on top of giant cliffs. They chose to do this not because it was easy but because it was hard, almost impossible.
Monasteries of Meteroa
Perhaps the most beautiful and unexpected part of our European VanLife adventure was stumbling upon the Monasteries of Meteora. They were built in the 14th century when the monks sought somewhere to hide in the face of an increasing number of Turkish attacks on Greece. At this time, access to the top was via removable ladders. Today, access is much simpler due to steps being carved into the rock during the 1920s. Of the 24 monasteries, only 6 (four male, two female) are still functioning, with each housing fewer than 10 individuals.
Waking up in Greece
Sometimes you just have to improvise. We rented a car from Athens at 1am, picked a random spot by the coast and woke up to these amazing views. Not sure the car is quite as comfortable as the van though... looking forward to seeing this beautiful country.
Vienna, Austria - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA
Wandering the streets of Vienna on an intentional 9-hour layover on the way to Greece.
Off to Vienna
This current leg of the misadventure began when we were driving down the mountain backwards at night while the engine was smoking and transmission oil was spilling all over the road. After scotch, French fries and failing to take the bus into town, as you may recall, we hired a taxi driver from Bangladesh to take us to the closest gas station to buy more transmission oil. The driver ended up calling his friend named Ozcan, a mechanic from Turkey, who confirmed that we had a leak in the transmission. .
Naturally, as one does, we ended up living in Ozcan’s parking lot where there conveniently happened be a mosque upstairs with a bathroom Ozcan gave us permission to use. His assistant from Gambia, who spoke perfect English who has been living in Salzburg since 2003 after having a child with an Austrian woman, helped translate the unfortunate news that the pump was likely gone and that only one guy in Austria could fix and rebuild the transmission. Enter: US Automatic Bogenhuber.
The charming 60-year old owner drove 30 mins into Salzburg with his girlfriend to meet us, continually forgot we were Canadian and spoke to us in German and basically told us he’s the man for the job and that he’d tow the vehicle and fix it up with his son over the weekend. He has all the parts and whatever he doesn’t have he’ll import from Holland. He happens to own the parts company. Of course he does! Just when we were about to sell the van for scrap metal, the Universe intervened and gave us a little helping hand. .
For now, a five-day escape and a plan-less plan on the final stretch of this stretch of the Vanlife adventure. Heading south
Stranded in Salzburg
Woke up in the mountains in Salzburg, Austria to this incredible display by Mother Earth. .
But what’s an image without the behind the scenes story?
Left Munich for Salzburg and Googled a random high point to boondock and camp out. On the way up Pistachio Green started smoking again while driving uphill at 11pm, it was full-on Furka Pass style where the rad was leaking, transmission oil spillage all over the road, smoke alarm screeching , so we stopped in the dead of the night to address the problem. Because up was not an option we decided to coast down the steep single lane hill backwards in neutral in the dark and camped out in a random parking lot. Next morning tried to take the bus, failed, visited the famous hotel across the street, ate French fries and drank 15 yr-old scotch at noon as we awaited a taxi driver. Drove 15km, bought 5L or tranny oil, returned to the van, rode down the hill in neutral, forwards this time, found a mechanic who eventually discovered that the seal on the transmission is kaput. So we live in a parking lot in Austria now. Lol
What now? Find a seal ($12) get our Turkish mechanic to save the day and find our way to Croatia and Slovenia. And possibly Greece if this van holds up. This is what happens when your van is older than you are! 🤷🏻♂️ . Everyday and every moment is always an adventure!
Dinner in Munich
Austria, Germany, wake up in the forest, van breaks down, hire a taxi, call Enrico, call Mechanic Mark, fix the van, have dinner in Munich, now back to Austria. Salzburg is next and Slovenia is on the horizon.
A detour to Pompei
Pompei by night? Why not. Word arrived via text message that the spare parts for the van finally arrived in Trun, Switzerland. The good news is that we’ll be ready to roll, the less good news is that 30cm of snow fell and the van doesn’t have snow tires. So what do we do? Head further away from the van of course, take a train to Naples and and another train to the historic site of Pompei. . Once a thriving and sophisticated Roman city, Pompeii was buried under meters of ash after the catastrophic eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D. To our good fortune, the gates remained open until 730pm so we stuck around and explored the streets under moonlight in the shadow of the volcano that tragically buried many of Pompei’s inhabitants before they could escape.
A little stop in Vatican City
When in Rome...
A more familiar perspective of Vatican City.
A beautiful Mess – Rome
Rome was pretty much a beautiful mess. Gale force winds outside the Coliseum, dark skies, pouring rain, broken umbrellas, matching ponchos, mini pizzas, road pop wine, Spanish Steps, miles upon miles of getting lost in the ancient city and making the most of the most unlikely way to see such an important historical city. Perfection. Couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day.
Coliseum in a storm
I’ve toyed with the idea of documenting this adventure in all of its ridiculous glory, but each time I conclude that either my career will be over rather quickly or most people will think we are both insane. .
I’ve toyed with the idea of documenting this adventure in all of its ridiculous glory, but each time I conclude that either my career will be over rather quickly or most people will think we are both insane. .
As soon as we reached the Coliseum, pandemonium occurred. The skies went dark, umbrellas went flying, tourists wrestled with the wind attempting to not get blown away, meanwhile two crazy Canadians have huge smiles on their faces, wine bottles in their hands (with reserves stashed close by) and relentlessly explored the historic city in brutal weather. Best part: both of us couldn’t possibly imagine seeing it any other way. Why be normal when you can be weird, right? We haven’t taken a single moment to relax since October 10th, time is limited and there is far too much to do and see. Somehow we gotta make it to Greece and ideally Turkey before the end of this and time is ticking. Where’s the van again? 😆😆😆. Right... in 30cm of snow in Trun. With no snow tires. 🤦🏻♂️. .As soon as we reached the Coliseum, pandemonium occurred. The skies went dark, umbrellas went flying, tourists wrestled with the wind attempting to not get blown away, meanwhile two crazy Canadians have huge smiles on their faces, wine bottles in their hands (with reserves stashed close by) and relentlessly explored the historic city in brutal weather. Best part: both of us couldn’t possibly imagine seeing it any other way. Why be normal when you can be weird, right? We haven’t taken a single moment to relax since October 10th, time is limited and there is far too much to do and see. Somehow we gotta make it to Greece and ideally Turkey before the end of this and time is ticking. Where’s the van again? 😆😆😆. Right... in 30cm of snow in Trun. With no snow tires. 🤦🏻♂️. .
Venice, Italy. #VanLifeEurope #Vanlife - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA
Venice in 360
Escaping the flooding after an amazing little adventure in Venice
Venice is underwater
Most people would likely plan their trip to Venice ahead of time, book a place to stay, arrive during the day and have some kind of plan. Not us. Nope. We show up late at night, find a hotel last minute, stay up way too late photographing the shadows and dark alleys, miss all hope for breakfast and wake up to a city of people wearing plastic blue, yellow, red and pink boots and decide to play in the rain, skip through the streets, drink wine and eat pizza in restaurants that are flooded with water and see it as the greatest adventure Venice could ever be.
Dear Venice: you could not have been more beautiful, ridiculous or perfect. Thank you. We gotta go! Rome, the coast then back to Trun, Switzerland to rescue the van.
@sarahollson - Amazing day! Let’s get you some new plastic shoe covers. 😆
Enter Italy – Venice at Night
Left the van in Switzerland, took the train to Churn, rented a car, drove out of Switzerland via some incredible passes, landed in Mestre, camped out at a random campground then abruptly decided to ditch the cute room and headed straight to Venice to explore at night with no plan.
Van broke down in Switzerland... taking the train to Italy. #Vanlife - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA
Train to Italy?
While the brake lines are being repaired... it appears that the best plan is to take the train to Chur, rent a car and drive to Venice. Seems like a solid plan, no?
Not exactly James Bond
So there I was pretending to be like James Bond in Goldfinger, minus the Aston Martin (insert Pistachio Green Van) driving up one of the most awesome passes on Earth when all of a sudden I notice the entire roadway is filled with smoke, Godrays are in the van while the smoke detector is going off - I immediately pull over facing traffic, pop the hood and inhale a cloud of smoke. Did Pistachio Green just take her last breath? .
After nursing her back to health with some oil and antifreeze we drove over the pass and made it 50 miles down valley and boondocked in the steep hills next to a field of cows, but not before overheating once again.
Introduce Enrico - the mechanic who saved the day and possibly our lives. I hired him to check the brakes, change the oil and top up the fluids and he discovered that we had worn down two out of three layers of our brake lines, which is terrifying because we were headed right to the next grand pass. He basically told us we’d die if we kept driving. After confirming with Mechanic Mark from Carp, Ontario we decided to listen to Enrico, (who I am now best friends with) rented a car and asked Enrico to park the van in his lot so we’d at least have somewhere to sleep while we await the custom made brake lines.
So what now? No van for at least 5 days as we await the new parts from Zurich. In the meantime, we’re stuck in a town where the restaurants only serve one meal (sausage, rice and Brussels sprouts) where there is a single train, Germany to the North, Italy to the south and perhaps an epic motorcycle on the horizon...
#Vanlife adventure continues... the road where anything goes.
Me in Switzerland on a suspension brige #VanlifeEurope - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA
Suspension bridge in Switzerland
When you see something awesome, like a suspension bridge hovering across a beautiful Swiss valley, you pull over and take a 360, fly your drone and snap a few images. Beautiful Switzerland!
Pistachio Green at the top of the famous Furka Pass from James Bond's 'Goldfinger' #Vanlife - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA
The Furka Pass
The Furka Pass - one of most incredible roadways I’ve ever driven. It was used as a location in the James Bond film ‘Goldfinger’. I’m blown away by the epic landscapes Switzerland has to offer.
We ended up in Zermatt, Switzerland at the foot of the Matterhorn. #VanLife continues... - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA
A few wrong turns, an epic ride from Chamonix to Italy to Switzerland and here we are in Zermatt, Switzerland. Epic views, stunning vistas and one of the most spectacular mountains on Earth!
Switzerland by Air
I’m not sure I can quite explain this melange of madness that is our little beautiful playful adventure. Here’s the last 24 hrs. Left Chamonix at 7pm after an extraordinary day in the mountains after an all night affair in the local Chamonix nightlife. Accidentally ended up in Italy, boondocked somewhere in the hills up against a mountain in the North, woke up without a clue to a local Italian lighting a fire as we sorted out morning coffee in the van, Googled our way to Switzerland, ate French fries with Swiss mayo under majestic mountain peaks, drove through ridiculous landscapes and found our way to Zermatt, emptied all the valuables from the van, left Pistacho with a random Dutch woman, took the train to Zermatt and are now camped out under the Matterhorn. It’s 11pm and we’re going out for food and drink when most of the town has gone to bed. That’s our life. Tomorrow... no idea. Today’s yet to begin. Make it up as you go. It’s far more interesting and whole lot more fun!
My Gypsy co-pilot
No VanLife adventure would be complete without my Gypsy co-pilot Sarah Ollson. Up for anything, anywhere, anytime, without hesitation, LIFE is always YES. Which way? Whichever direction the heart desires.
One day, I'll write about everything that transpired. Moments I'll never forget. Experiences that are unimaginable unless otherwise lived. Today, I take a moment to celebrate. Above the clouds amongst the mountains I treasure. My greatest mentors. The mountains always reveal who we truly are. Cheers to life!
Pistachio Green in Chamonix
Shipping Pistachio Green across the Atlantic from Canada to the UK with no plan whatsoever is one the best and most ridiculous decisions I’ve ever made. The adventure to anywhere east continues...
Chasing golden rays of light in Chamonix...
VanLife in Paris with my Gypsy co-pilot Sarah Ollson #VanLife Europe - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA
We've landed in Paris! Pistachio Green is running flawlessly. Scroll around and get a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower. Eastern Europe awaits!
Sunrise in a sleeping bag
The simple pleasures of living in a van. Waking up and watching the sunrise from your sleeping bag.
Waking up in random places
Best part of Vanlife is waking up in random places, not knowing where you are or what you’re going to see. For a first attempt boondock, this isn’t bad! Where to? Chamonix, Italy, Croatia for sure, somewhere to wherever in between, Slovenia, Greece, Turkey? Let’s see.
France in a random field
Random field in France for the night while airing the sleeping bag out after Mt. Kilimanjaro. #Vanlife unpolished. Wonder what this place will look like in the morning?
VanLife Europe begins! - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA
VanLife Europe begins!
On July 25th, my pistachio green van was partway across the Atlantic on its way to Leeds, England when I received word that my father died in a tragic car accident. Naturally, Pistachio Green no longer mattered in that moment, all plans were shelved and derailed and the van was placed safely in storage by a friendly angel I’ve still yet to meet named Trace. For months, Pistachio Green sat in her new home in York amongst fancy cars while I fulfilled other promises and responsibilities including taking care of my family and seeing through the Climb for Albinism. I’ve since rescued the van, drove across most of England and have just entered France with no plan, no clue, no set direction, no certain outcome, just a pocket full of credit cards, a van full of expedition and camera gear I needs to get rid of and the open road which points in the direction of anything goes. Everyone thinks I’m unbreakable and superhuman. I put on the strong face, but deep down I’m just as fragile as the next person, I just happen to have a near unbreakable mind, a fairly resilient body and a heart that rarely fails me. I’ve been dealing with a lot the last 4 months and I’m really looking forward to bowing out gracefully from all of my responsibilities and just driving into the direction of whiceverwaycomes.
Delivered on time
First I was about to take off from Ottawa and the entire van smelled like gas. Mechanic Mark forgot to tighten the fuel filter clamp. Thankfully, landlord George helped me out. I then drove 14 hours straight from Ottawa to Nova Scotia through the night and watched a fiery red sunrise before racing against the clock to resolve a few final issues.
1) Had to run the van to empty and then manually fill the tank because the gas gauge doesn’t work. No problem.
2) Had to resolve a leak in the antifreeze container, which I never resolved. I did my best.
3) I dropped the van off at the ferry, bypassed the entire line of people waiting, met the broker, got help from the nice people at the shipping port, left the keys, signed a paper, raced to the airport and caught my flight back to Ottawa. Now I wait.
I’m a touch concerned they won’t load it onto the ferry because of the tiny leak in the excess coolant container. Positive vibes out to the Universe for a little helping hand. Once it’s loaded hiccup free, packing begins and I wait for it to sail across the ocean which should take 6 days. There is a massive series of cruxes to unlock with the actual adventure, but for now, this is the most important part.
Dear Universe and shipping port people: Your play. Please be kind. 🙂🙏🏼.
This guy: Mark. I found him on Kijiji and he's been a life saver ever since. He's also one of the funniest and quirkiest human being I've ever met. He saved my butt big time on this project. Rebuilt the carb on the fly. Sourced parts that were un-source-able. Rebuilt the steering. Sorted out my solar. Drove me home at 3am. Gave me an awesome deal. I mean, what more can you ask for? If you need a mechanic in the Ottawa area be sure to look up the Wheel Genius. Thank you, Mark!
Chasing wild dreams in a pistachio green spaceship 💫🚌 - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA
Off to the races!
It all worked@! Parts came in from Montreal in 4 hrs. Mechanic mark rebuilt the carb and I left for Halifax at 11am this morning! Here we go!
The van from the sky
14 drive from Ottawa to Halifax and only one stop to pop the drone up in the sky. The DJI Mavic Air is going to be incredibly handy on this adventure.
Mechanic Mark’s Garage - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA
Trouble in paradise
By 7pm we were putting some final touches on the electrical/solar system and Mark the mechanic decided he didn’t like the sound of the engine and took apart the carb. ‘You’ll never make it’, he says. At 10pm, minutes before a 10,000 mile journey he tells me I’ll never make it? By the time I get home it’s 3am, I don’t have the van, we don’t know where the carb parts will come from (1975) and the ferry needs my van by Friday 11am and I have a 14 hr drive to get there. Let the good times roll!
The shipping company insisted I purge the propane tank in order to get it on the ship. Because the tank is almost 45 years old and has a leak when in the off position, I concluded that the only way to purge the propane was to let it leak out manually.
VanLife – A new adventure
What should have been a simple little hand off of keys turned into a mini mis-adventure and I haven’t even left yet.